Alabama sends the Vols packing in homecoming matchup

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

Alabama navigated the rocky road and came out on top on Saturday. No. 4 Alabama football defeated the Tennessee Volunteers, 52-24, at Bryant-Denny Stadium. 

The fourth Saturday in October matchup had twists and turns. Many expected Alabama to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders. The Crimson Tide needed to build on the momentum from last Saturday’s victory against Mississippi State. 

It was business as usual for Alabama, at least for the first couple of drives. Tennessee’s opening offensive drive ended in a punt. The Volunteers only gained six total yards. 

Alabama scored a touchdown on the opening drive. It took just over five minutes for the Crimson Tide to drive down the field. Running back Brian Robinson Jr. capped off the drive with an eight-yard rushing touchdown. 

The pressure was on Tennessee to respond, and they did. It took the Volunteers eight plays to go 75 yards and tie the game. 

This game turned into a tug of war, with Tennessee taking the advantage. 

Alabama drove down the field to the Tennessee 36 yard line on the next offensive possession. Kicker Will Reichard then missed a 52-yard field goal. That gave the Volunteers the ball. 

After punting on their opening possession, the Volunteers scored touchdowns on the next two. The Crimson Tide found itself in a hole early, which the team hasn’t experienced since Texas A&M on Oct. 2. 

Once again, Alabama needed to show resilience under pressure. Much of that resilience came from Bryce Young. 

Earlier in the season, Young didn’t scramble much. He stayed in the pocket as long as possible before either dumping the ball off or throwing the pass away. 

Tonight was different. 

Young found himself one-on-one with a Tennessee defender several times. The fourth-ranked quarterback in the nation in passing efficiency had to use his legs to get Alabama out of sticky situations. 

With just under eight minutes left in the second half, Alabama was third and seven. The team was in the red zone with a chance to tie the game. Young scrambled for 11 yards and fooled everyone in Bryant-Denny Stadium on a fake out. 

That set up a six-yard rushing touchdown for Robinson. 

Of Alabama’s seven rushing plays that went 10 or more yards, Young had three of them. Two of them came on third down plays. 

“He can move,” linebacker Henry To’oto’o said. 

Young showed that his mobility is one of his strengths, but head coach Nick Saban wants him to run less. 

“We’d like for him to not have to run, and I think he’s very selective,” Saban said. 

Despite Young’s plays with his legs, Alabama found itself in a close game. The Crimson Tide was up 21-14 at the half. They received the second half kickoff, but they didn’t do much with it. 

Alabama had its first three-and-out of the night to start the second half. 

Alabama forced the Volunteers to kick a field goal on their opening possession of the second half. Tennessee kicker Chase McGrath drilled a 32-yard field goal that closed the gap to  21-17. 

Alabama exploded in the second half, scoring four touchdowns and one field goal. The Volunteers only other score was a 70-yard pass from Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker to wide receiver Cedric Tillman. 

The crowd was a factor all night. Early in the game, the electric home crowd forced four false starts from Tennessee. The crowd never really quieted down, even when Tennessee had a 14-7 lead. Homefield proved to be an advantage Saturday night. 

“I want to give credit to the crowd tonight,” Saban said. “They were great.” .

It wasn’t clean, but it was a win. Now the Crimson Tide will rest before facing Louisiana State University on Nov. 6.